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date: 30 March 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines virtuality and reality in the context of economic affairs. Digital objects and currencies found in online game worlds and digital environments are considered play and make-believe, and are branded as “virtual” to distinguish them from the serious world of “real” consumption and economics. However, virtual goods are increasingly bought and sold for real money, and the value of such trade now reaches several billion US dollars per year. This encroachment of the “virtual” into the “real” serves as an occasion for a critical reevaluation of supposed economic realities. It turns out that the value of “real” goods and currencies is often just as subjective as that of their supposedly virtual counterparts. The real-virtual dichotomy in economic affairs is a social construct, and sometimes things are labeled “virtual” simply to marginalize them. As the “real” economy looks increasingly vulnerable, such categorizations may shift.

Keywords: online games, virtual goods, virtual currency, economic crisis, value, subjectivity

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